The following contains spoilers for The Tick Season 2.
If there’s one thing The Tick creator Ben Edlund knows about, it’s superheroes. If there’s one more thing Tick creator Ben Edlund knows about, it’s crustaceans.
“Lobsters are practically immortal,” Edlund says, giving his best marine biology lesson. “The only reason they die is molting fatigue. They only die because apparently their systems don’t have enough intrinsic energy to go through whatever final molt would make them even larger, and then they just cap it.”
The Tick Season 2 pays homage to the beloved blue character’s origins in many ways, giving him a fresh new costume to match his comic book look. It also introduces, however, a light homage to The Tick‘s New England beginnings in the form of large-shelled villain Lobstercules and her band of very New England-y lawbstah fishermen bank robbers.
Lobstercules, combined with The Tick’s shedding of his own carapace, leads to an unusually molt-centric season of television. Perhaps it’s too on the nose to point out that the fascination with shells and the shedding of said shells is a metaphor for the series really coming into its own…but we’ll say it anyway. The Tick Season 2 capably continues the story of the ebullient blue superhero and his trusty partner Arthur, as they navigate a new world of superhero regulations, politics, public relations, and yes: actual crime-fighting.
We spoke with Edlund to discuss all manner of marine biology, but more importantly to learn about what went in to making The Tick Season 2, the bureaucracy of superhero-dom, and even the possibility of The Tick Season 3.
DEN OF GEEK: It seems like there’s a bigger emphasis on the public relations angle of superheroes this season. What was the thought process was like in wanting to explore that a little bit more of that?
BEN EDLUND: It all comes from telling the story. It’s a simple story that sort of flowers outward. It was Arthur at first and he was alone. Then he got a friend, who was a superhero and it reminded him that he was supposed to be doing something. The alarm went off in his life and he realized, “I’m supposed to be a hero,” so he took the hero’s journey in season one, and his focus and our focus was very myopic, it was almost binary, it was the Arthur/Tick versus The Terror. And certain characters came in and expanded their world but they really just sort of built this bedrock of family around these two guys.
In season 2, Arthur has decided he will be a superhero, with The Tick’s help. Now, he’s sort of grown up and he’s stepping out into the world and in the world you must worry about a variety of things, one of them is persona. Practically, you must concern yourself with persona. That’s one of the themes in phase two. Arthur has decided his course in life and is following his calling and now he’s grappling with the adult issues of becoming something. In the case of the superhero, you’re part celebrity, part public figure, and those issues have direct practical impact on your life.
I like that the season begins with Arthur accepting his hero’s journey basically over breakfast. He just comes out of his room, begins putting his clothes on and says “you know what, Tick? I think I’m ready for this.” Was that a deliberate choice – to have such a mundane setting?
You mean, deliberately lame? Yes, it was. I like it too because it’s kind of the reverse of what usually happens, you know? It’s usually a very dramatic moment. He started to itch at the idea, that the accomplishment he felt he might want to feel again or something, but we needed to see him all in. And I think also for the audience and everybody it just needed, everybody wanted to get him off the bench and in it.
At the beginning of the season, Tick also undergoes a pretty abrupt transformation. He basically molts.
He does. He has tended to sort of go into shifts as Arthur has gone through the major moves of his existence. But he definitely drops some carapace, if you know what I’m saying. Some chitin, some chitin goes down.
What was the chicken or the egg with that scenario? Did you want to change The Tick’s costume for new season? Or was it more like, this guy has to molt, like it was just something that the character does?
I mean, honestly, The Tick as a story and as a series is very much engaged with the idea of synchronicity. And it’s been my experience of when you play around with synchronicity you start to experience synchronicities. We had a devil of a time working out the engineering for this costume. Frankly, we never figured it out in the previous live action. It was just a very difficult situation, to make this seamless blue man kind of thing.
So we started from the angle of well maybe if he’s got a carapace and seams and stuff, maybe that’s better and started with a certain concept in mind and also kind of that would allow for certain texturing that might be more modern or something or at least a little bit interesting.
Now he looks in the second season the way I used to draw him, basically. Like when I was drawing my comic book, he’s seamless, he’s blue. He looks great. And it took time and he had to evolve, he really had to evolve and so, why hide that from the viewer? Why hide that from the story when it turns out actually make the story really good? And the way I conceive of who The Tick is, this fits in with that. So I’m down.
What was it like to introduce more of AEGIS into this season?
It’s also part of that idea that like, okay, well you got these two main characters and they have decided what they want to do for a living is be superheroes. That means we don’t want to see Arthur going into an accounting office, but where do you go? What is the kind of corporate or the framework of authority around this?
Because The Tick is a fully populated superhero world, with 70 years or more of superhero history behind it, it’s meant to be a reflection of what Marvel would and should be, or what DC would and should be. Most of the time when you show a superhero story, you don’t want 6000 other superheroes in the background going, “hey you guys need help?” Usually when they do these kind of stories, like you’ll do a Spider-Man movie and a couple of heroes will come in or something and they’ll be managing a universe but if you were to really depict the world of it, it would be too ridiculous and funny.
So bringing in AEGIS adds a very long storied history, not unlike maybe some of the institutions in comic-dom that it may be modeled after. And it adds like a, you know, pretty obsessively worked out interactive past with the characters and it’s all part of a big kind of aggressively thought out universe.
There are a lot of perks that come along with working for AEGIS. Do they also pay superheroes a salary?
Not directly. I mean I think once you get to be a Flag Five member, yes. Basically, AEGIS is a regulatory situation that wants to have as much connection with the heroes as possible, so they make a really nice Venus flytrap, which is this lounge. They hope that by giving the heroes anything they can give them there, it becomes the local clubhouse because that place is recording 24 hours a day. That place is scanning constantly to see if there have been any metabolic changes in any of the people that could blow up a building by thinking about it. It’s a sort of a, a two way mirror deal with this group.
So they do put out incentives but they don’t directly pay most heroes, because it’s just, they don’t have the budget for it and they find they don’t need to. But the budget that’s made from Flag Five incorporates a variety of things like stipends and living spaces and all this stuff. The trade off is that…for example, Captain America found out it wasn’t the best deal all the time to be that sort of connected to the government organization that he at first trusted. You know, it’s just one of those things.
Even aside from government organizations that’s kind of how a lot of jobs work now, where it’s like, we can’t really pay you much but we do have a pool table.
Right. Yeah. We have very good beverages. I think also we’re in a place, to speak in terms of workforce, where it seems like we put a lot of hours in, as a nation. We spend a lot of our time in what’s become a commingling of social and work spheres because of the number of hours a lot of people are forced to work. So, it’s not unwise to put an enjoyment valve in there, if possible, in my opinion.
What’s behind the direction that Ms. Lint takes this season? Her transformation into Joan of Arc dovetails nicely with the public relations angle.
It was a suite of ideas that came from that world where the emphasis to some degree is on appearance, on outward and inward image and all these sort of ideas and then applying it to Ms. Lint. It felt like it was a good idea having her come back to the city not as a villain but a hero, at a time when The Tick and Arthur were figuring out what heroes are, in real world terms, and trying to be them.
What about Dot’s direction in season two? I really didn’t see that one coming, even though a general rule in a lot of superhero shows is…everybody’s a superhero. What went into that decision and how did you settle on those powers?
I mean … the power’s a squirrely one. I didn’t want her to be sort of over the top. The power revolves around her “core wound.” Arthur’s core wound is the horrific, mind scalding moment of loss, and also villainy, right in his face, eating his ice cream. Dot couldn’t choose the right shoes, made her mom late, and that’s why her dad was under that spaceship. It’s her fault they were late, right? Time is a problem. It’d be great if you could kind of see around the corner of time or understand whether or not you have an extra five seconds to choose which shoes you want. It lives in her as a fundamental want that the power is seeking to correct.
You mentioned the introduction of AEGIS allowing you to bring in some tertiary superhero characters. Which one is your favorite power that you came up with for this season, and were there any left on the cutting room floor that you were sad to see go?
Oh yeah. We came up with so much stuff. We had a dog that could shape shift but only shape shifted into other dogs. He was great. He was called Bad Dog.
But a lot of time, the power is not the thing. Like our powers in the show are sort of straight up, most of the time. I think weird-ass powers are cool, but like in a lot of cases, the powers we’re working with are straightforward. We got a rubber guy, Ms. Lint uses electricity, etc. It’s really more about their lives and their scarred psyches this time around .I think tonally, this season is weirder than the previous season.
Lobstercules and her fishermen handlers, was that an attempt to bring The Tick back to his original Masshole days?
Sort of. I mean, there was an awareness of New England as the birthing ground. I’m very seafood averse, and I grew up in New England, where seafood is really just everywhere. And so that’s a sort of a long-term seafood reaction.
But I really enjoyed that whole flow of story, because it goes through a series of stations and keeps reversing or expanding. Lobstercules is a character we’ll be learning more about in the future. I think she’s gonna get tenure at the local university and teach some kind of maritime history course.
She’s been around for a while. Lobsters are practically immortal. The only reason they die is molting fatigue. They only die because apparently their systems don’t have enough intrinsic energy to go through whatever final molt would make them even larger, and then they just cap it.
That’s wild. What a molt-centric season of television.
The season was gonna have a subtitle. It was gonna be The Tick: Molt Fatigue. That just didn’t, they didn’t like it for some reason. I don’t know why.
Where do you think the story will go in season three?
Everywhere. To the moon, and back. I would put forward that we would go forward in time, and we would catch up with them after they’ve been at it for a while. I think that that would allow us to kind of let the last level of like, the coral reef, join the party.
And really, at that point, it could really feel like the live action version is embracing the inventiveness that we were able to achieve in the comic book. More fun by a factor of 6.